'Soft Focus Effect'
Clive R. Haynes FRPS
This technique has its origins in traditional photography and darkroom methods when on-camera diffusion lenses, a fine mesh (stocking material sometimes used) was an option over the enlarger lens or changing focus position during exposure were all methods used to make skin tones more glamorous and flattering.
The images below are large but necessary to illustrate the 'before' and 'After' effect of the technique
The effect is intended to be subtle and the difference does show, however the fidelity will depend upon the resolution of the screen display.
The idea is to create gentle skin texture on a portrait whilst maintaining detail and sharpness where required.
Open the image
a duplicate of the image and place it on the layer above.
on the 'Blur 1' Go to:
on the 'Blur 2'
Selective Sharpening and Finishing Touches To carry out this phase we need to treat the two 'Blur' Layers as a single unit, yet keep our options open for possible further work on either of the two 'Blur' Layers.
The option of 'Merging' the two 'Blur' Layers would remove this possibility so wishing to retain 'maximum flexibility' we're going to create a Layer 'Group'.
|NB: At this point, depending upon which version of Photoshop you are using, you'll either need to follow the Layer 'Group' ('CS' / 'CS2' versions) information or the 'Layer Set' (pre 'CS' versions) information below.|
Creating a Layer 'Group'
(activate) both 'Blur' Layers.
Layer 'Group' will appear.
Note for Creating a 'Layer Set' - this applies to earlier versions of Photoshop
the two 'Blur' by using the 'Link' icon (click in the little grey square next
to the 'eye' icon for the non-active 'Blur' layer - a 'chain-link' icon will appear
and the two 'Blur' layers are now linked).
Layer Set' will appear at the top of the layer stack.
'Layer Mask' is the preferred method to restore all or part of the original picture
by selectively erasing areas of the two 'Blur' Layers by working on the Layer
'Group' (or 'Set').
Sharpening may be applied to the image but remember to only apply this to the original image (beneath the 'Blur' Layer 'Group')
Should selective erasing of one of the 'Blur' Layers be required, then create a 'Layer Mask' on the required 'Blur' Layer within the Layer 'Group'.
I find the eyes, lips, and areas of the hair, when revealed by the 'Layer Mask' create that esential sparkle and focal points that are important for the picture.